Sunday, August 19, 2012

Recapping 2012 Commit Willie Henry

The defensive line for Michigan in 2012 has been filled with question marks since Mike Martin and Ryan Van Bergen left for the NFL.  Experts have cited all kinds of reasons to either believe or doubt Michigan's defensive front for next year.  Much of it has focused on returning players, but Michigan is actually bringing in several defensive lineman that could make an impact in their freshman campaign.  One of them is Willie Henry, who was a very late addition to Michigan's 2012 recruiting class.  He didn't receive much coverage during the recruiting period, but he could prove to be one of the more important recruits in the class.

There are a multitude of reasons to be excited about Henry for this season and the future.  First, he is already massive, coming in at 302 lbs according to the 2012 media guide.  That's just 6 lbs lighter than Will Campbell who is projected to start at nose tackle and heavier than Richard Ash and Quinton Washington, both projected backups for the line.  The unfortunate thing about his massive size is that a good hunk of it is "bad" weight and he will need to work to improve on his overall strength before he gets some serious playing time.  However, he has a great wingspan that allows him to get away from blocks, is a solid and consistent tackler, and has good speed, considering his immense size.  He has some solid potential, but there's no doubt he needs to work on his strength, size, and his basic technique, especially in the use of his hands as he can have trouble with double teams and offensive lineman can often get leverage on his lower body.



Here are the basic stats on Henry:


Height
6’3”
6’2”
6’3”
6’3”
Weight
265 lbs
270 lbs
273 lbs
270 lbs
Position
DT
DT
DT/DE
DT
Rating
3*
3*
3*
3*
Position Rank
#97
NR
#38
#74
National Rank
#300+
#250+
#300+
#247+


For the most part, the scouting services are pretty straightforward when it comes to Henry.  He's a consensus 3* recruit, stands at about 6'3" and should be playing defensive tackle.  Obviously, with the information provided by the media guide, the weights and weight differences lose their relevance in this case. It is pretty interesting to see how much higher Scout has him in their positional rankings though.  He is about 50 spots higher on Scout than 247 and 60 spots higher than ESPN.  Scout might be a little higher on Henry than the others, but I do think he has some outstanding potential, assuming he develops his technique, which is a pretty safe assumption.

Now, moving on from the rankings to potential impact as a freshman.  One look at the depth chart and Henry's skillset would imply that he is headed for a redshirt.  He will most likely be looking at the 3-tech position for 2012 and will have to compete with Jibreel Black, Quinton Washington, and maybe even fellow 2012 commit Matt Godin, although I see Godin as more of a defensive end for this season.  Some believe that he is a true nose tackle and should begin playing there, but I just don't think he will be ready for that in the near future.  If he was a conditioned 302 lbs I would agree, but he's not there yet.  He needs to get in the weight room and increase his strength before he can truly become a nose tackle, which means the 3 tech position is probably the best spot for him.

Black seems to be the most likely candidate to play the position, but he is moving from the weakside defensive end spot and his transition will continue to be a question mark.  His development seems positive, but at a new position and only 276 lbs, he is no guarantee to be a lock for the starting job.  The only thing that really makes it likely is that his backup, Quinton Washington, hasn't done a whole lot since he's arrived at Michigan.  He also underwent a position change in the past and hasn't quite transitioned well enough yet from the offensive line to the defensive line to get serious playing time.  Most hope he will turn into a productive player, but he is just another question mark at the position.

This leaves us with Henry.  There are two returning players that should be above him on the depth chart, but if he can have a good fall camp, I think he might challenge one or both of those players.  It seems unlikely he will avoid a redshirt, but if one or both of those players underperform expectations, the coaching staff may look to the bench for Henry.  He has some solid potential with his speed and size for the future, but until he has more strength and technique, I think his time will be limited.  Look for him to make an impact in 2013 or 2014 when he gets stronger and more experienced and the depth chart opens up more.

Here is his highlight video:

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